On Thursday, July 2nd Austin changed for the better. Chief of Police Brian Manely mentioned the Austin PD will no longer arrest or cite Austinites for small amounts of marijuana.
Firstly, Police Chief Brian Manely said, “APD will no longer cite or arrest individuals with sufficient identification for Class A or Class B misdemeanor “possession of marijuana” offenses.”
Secondly, he also mentioned, “unless there is an immediate threat to a person’s safety or doing so as part of the investigation of a high priority, felony-level narcotics case or the investigation of a violent felony,” according to the memo released on July 2nd.
Texas has some of the most severe penalties for cannabis possession. Here are those misdemeanors I previously spoke of:
Class B misdemeanor is the possession of 2 ounces or less of marijuana. And 180 days in jail and a fine up to $2,000.
Class A misdemeanor is the possession between 2 and 4 ounces of marijuana. And 1 year in jail and a fine up to $4,000.
The Austin City Council approved Resolution No. 20200123-059 back in January. As a result, Austin PD may not arrest or cite citizens for small amounts of marijuana. What caused this?
The Texas DPS and local crime labs were having trouble measuring THC. They inquired about new marijuana testing equipment. It would make certain the difference in THC levels in illegal marijuana and legal hemp. Texas House Bill 1325 states the THC content can be no more than 0.3%.
Low-level marijuana offenses seemed unjust with the decline of more than half of all marijuana prosecutions. The legalization of hemp allowed this to happen. Austin PD also mentions it while voicing their reasoning below.
Police Chief Brian Manely states, “After reviewing the current protocols for handling marijuana cases at all of the relevant County and District Courts and Attorney Offices and/or conferring with representatives from those respective entities, APD has revised our marijuana-enforcement polices to comply with Council’s resolution and align with present practices within the local judicial system.”
The Public’s Response
City Council Member Gregorio Casar tweeted, “Although the Police Chief should have made this change the day after City Council passed my resolution in January, it finally happened today because of continued community advocacy.”
He goes on to say, “This victory is a small step compared to the transformational change that we must make this summer to our City’s budget and policing practices.”
Gregario mentioned the unequal number of Black Austinites being arrested for possession compared to White Austinites. Despite both races using marijuana, Black Austinites are 7 times more likely to be arrested for possession despite their population size of 8% overall.